Steve Cishek has developed a wealth of knowledge when it comes to mammoth Giancarlo Stanton home runs. After all, in the Marlins bullpen he has one of the best seats around to see where most of them land.
So what did he think of Stanton’s latest blast — a three-run bomb which bounced off the roof of the Marlins’ spring training facility and disappeared well behind it — on Tuesday?
“The scary part is you could tell he didn’t even get all of it,” Cishek said. “It didn’t make the usual sound.”
Said manager Mike Redmond: “I’ve only seen one other guy — Mark McGwire — hit a ball that far in this ballpark. He’s got some sick pop, and it sure is fun to watch.”
Big bangs or small bops, balls are flying off Stanton’s bat once again this spring. It’s a welcome sign considering how injuries have slowed the 24-year old All-Star right fielder throughout his career.
After missing 85 games during the past two seasons with hamstring, shoulder, ankle, knee and foot injuries, Stanton appears healthy and reenergized this spring. He’s hitting .333 (13 of 39) with four homers and 12 RBI and is playing better defensively in right field.
“It’s good to have a spring where I can be here every day,” Stanton said Monday after clubbing a three-run home run off Mets reliever Gonzalez Germen. “Last year was kind of a zoo, bouncing around everywhere [playing in the World Baseball Classic]. And I hadn’t been healthy a couple of years before that.”
Stanton’s legs appear to be just fine this spring. He made a sliding catch in Monday’s 10-7 win over the Mets and has been making the routine plays look easy. Stanton said he has focused on cutting down his mental mistakes. He made eight errors last season, but has yet to make one this spring.
“Its not the big plays I’m worried about,” Stanton said. “It’s the ones where I don’t necessarily give up a run, but it’s a bonehead throw or a botched ball.”
Redmond said he’s just happy to see Stanton feeling good. “When you feel good it gives you the best chance to go out and be successful,” he said. “His at-bats have been great. Hopefully that’s a sign of big things to come.”
While most of his Marlins teammates enjoyed their first day off of the spring, Tom Koehler spent Wednesday afternoon pitching in a Triple A game on a back field behind Roger Dean Stadium as his quest for a spot in the starting rotation continued.
Facing a lineup which featured Cardinals top prospects Oscar Taveras and James Ramsey, Koehler tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out four before his pitch count got too high.
“I would have liked to have gone a little deeper especially coming off five [scoreless] innings the other day [against the Mets],” said Koehler, who threw 74 pitches, 54 for strikes. “But considering the circumstances where my pitch count got up with some foul [balls], some good at-bats, I’m still happy where I’m at right now.”
Koehler, who in 12 Grapefruit League innings has given up only one earned run and seven hits while striking out 11 and walking two, had a bit of a scary moment in the fourth inning when Cardinals minor leaguer Chris Swauger smacked a line drive back to the mound.
Luckily, the ball struck Koehler right below his buttocks, high up along his right thigh. He recovered, picked up the ball and tossed it to first base for the out. Koehler then waved a trainer off saying he felt fine.
Right-hander Jacob Turner said he learned a lot about himself as a pitcher last season. After his second consecutive encouraging start Tuesday, maybe his struggles are finally in the rear-view-mirror.
“Sometimes you need to be terrible for a little bit to really learn what you need to do to be successful,” said Turner, whose 2-1 record and 3.38 ERA this spring in 13 1/3 innings is far better than the 0-3, 9.69 ERA he posted a year ago in spring before being demoted to the minors.
Redmond said Turner is stronger this spring and his velocity is up into the mid-’90s “something we didn’t see out of him last year.” Turner said the development of his changeup has also helped and it’s going to be a big pitch for him this season.
“It’s probably always been a pitch I haven’t thrown as much as I should have,” Turner said. “I think it’s probably the hardest pitch for a hitter to see if you keep the same arm slot and keep the same arm speed. So it’s something playing off my sinker can be really more successful.”
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